A 57-year-old Palestine man arrested in October 2004 in connection with a local crack cocaine distribution ring has been sentenced to time in federal prison.

On Thursday in a Tyler federal courtroom, Ross McMorris Jr., 57, of Palestine was sentenced to 18 months by U.S. District Judge Michael Schneider.

McMorris was one of more than 70 people — mostly from Anderson County — arrested by local and other authorities on Oct. 13, 2004 on allegations he was part of a crack cocaine distribution ring.

Authorities have said they began a two-year investigation in November 2002 into the sale and distribution of crack cocaine in Anderson County. The ring was linked to suppliers in both Dallas and Houston, according to authorities.

McMorris, who has a lengthy criminal history according to authorities, was one of 16 people arrested in October 2004 who were federally indicted on the charge of conspiracy to distribute a controlled substance.

On Thursday, McMorris pleaded guilty to possessing and distributing .83 gram of crack cocaine on Aug. 15, 2003, with Roy Lee “Red” Tatum, one of the alleged leaders of the crack cocaine organization.

Tyler attorney Joe Thigpen, who represented McMorris, asked the court for a leniency, saying his client had a reduced mental capacity and did not understand selling illegal narcotics was wrong.

Due to the defendant’s various physical conditions, Schneider said he would recommend McMorris serve his sentence in a federal medical facility.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Allen Hurst represented the government in its prosecution of McMorris.

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